“ I don’t like them,” my mother would say, “I don’t understand why Picasso can’t put eyes where they belong? And why does Modigliani have to stretch the truth?”The art hanging on the walls in our house, when I was growing up, came from Italian ancestors and later from auction houses in Los Angeles where my father shopped. On my mother’s side, it was hung by interior designers who collected trending artists during the era when our grandfather’s Tudor house in Ohio was built, circa 1929. While there were line drawings, limited edition prints of hounds and flamingos, and oil landscapes ornately framed, there were no abstracts, no “modern” pieces.
So where are Picasso’s eyes?
So, when I got to college and took my first art history class from a passionate and kindly professor, I didn’t appreciate or understand work that wasn’t representational. We had lived in the US and Europe and visiting museums was a condition of our upbringing, but no one ever brought home anything as adventurous as a Pollock print or Kandinsky. I remember sitting alone after class and Prof. Schroder patiently flashing pictures of varied works with the projector, trying to explain how color or rhythm made the viewer “feel.”
“ You are a tough student,” he said, and I felt bad, but kept digging.
To my mother’s exasperation, I finally got what was so dynamic or moving about pieces that were once out of my range. I began to see lots of things in new ways, architecture, jewelry, tableware, everything, and, oh yes, most notably, literature.
What about literature?
So, recently when I looked at Foreword’s slogan, “ Be Fierce, Read Indie,” I felt celebratory. Critics, art dealers, interior designers, and reviewers on Amazon are constantly telling me what I like, and sometimes I get worried that I will forget what I like without their advice. That is why, when the publishing industry faltered and tripped into a free for all, leading into an environment in which anyone can write and publish a book, I was shocked and amazed.
Now, I can pick up a book that is not sanctioned by the publishing gods. I can read it and think, “This is awful!” or “Wow, this guy can write! and I am going to read all his books.” I like making that decision in the privacy of my own head, my own evolving taste. I can enjoy it without overwhelming exterior commentary, thank you very much.
It is exciting to cultivate your taste when the tutelage is inspiring, but I’ll take mine without too much coaching, please. It is hard to maintain the kind of balance that makes one willing to consider, but not become subscriptive because so many expert opinions are being hurled at us. With reviewers or the media pounding at us, it is no wonder that we lose our courage to… “ Be fierce.”